A population of multipotential neuroepithelial cells originating in the ventral portion of the hindbrain neural tube has been shown recently to emigrate at the site of attachment of the trigeminal nerve. These ventrally emigrating neural tube cells populate the mesenchyme of the first pharyngeal (branchial) arch. Because the Meckel's and the quadrate cartilage develop from this mesenchyme, we sought to determine whether these ventrally emigrating neural tube cells contributed to their development. The ventral neural tube cells were tagged with a replication-deficient retroviral vector containing the LacZ gene. This method permanently labels the descendents of the neural tube cells; thus, they can be subsequently tracked during development. The viral concentrate was microinjected into the lumen of the rostral hindbrain of chick embryos, after the emigration of neural crest is finished, on embryonic day 2 (stage 14). In control embryos, the virus was placed on top of the neural tube. Embryos were killed on days 3, 4, and 7 and processed for the detection of LacZ-positive cells. By day 7, the Meckel's and the quadrate cartilage can be easily recognized. LacZ-positive cells were seen in both cartilages. They were located in perichondrium and in the cartilage. Immunostaining with the neural crest cell marker HNK-1 indicated that the LacZ-positive cells were HNK-1 negative. The HNK-1-positive neural crest-derived cells were located in the cartilage but not in the perichondrium. These results indicate that the chondrocytes in the Meckel's and the quadrate cartilage differentiate from two sources of cells; the ventrally emigrating neural tube cells and the neural crest. The developmental significance of differentiation of cartilage from the ventral neural tube cells and of the heterogeneous origin of chondrocytes in morphogenesis remains to be established. Dev Dyn 1999;216:37-44.
Copyright 1999 Wiley-Liss, Inc.